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The SGC meets with Jarrod Kane from Tegalus. (Recap: Kane was a military officer in the Rand Protectorate's military in season 8's "Icon". SG-1's arrive on Tegalus spurred a religious fanatic to take over the Rand Protectorate's government; the instability in the government caused their enemy nation, Caledonia, to make a pre-emptive first strike.) Earth had been providing some humanitarian support to the Rand Protectorate, but refusing to give them weapons. Some months ago, the Protectorate ceased communications. We now learn that this is when an Ori Prior arrived.
Kane tells SG-1 that the Prior healed a devastating plague in their country (gee, sounds familiar). He also provided the plans for an offensive military satellite for use against Caledonia. The new Rand Protectorate government converted to Origin and has built the satellite. It is powerful enough to destroy a city. Kane himself is no longer in the military and has spoken out against the Ori. He wants SG-1 to destroy the satellite, and has brought schematics for it.
SG-1 is always happy to go against the Ori. Plus, they have no desire to see the Rand Protectorate and Caledonia start another war, since the previous devastation was sparked by SG-1's visit. Finally, Carter examines the plans for the satellite and states that it's pretty primitive, with no defenses, presumably since it had to be built by the natives, who are not at a high level of technology. However, there is one caveat: the plans are of an interim version, not the final version of the satellite.
General Landry is inexplicably absent (there's a funny scene where no one in SG-1 wants to sit in his chair), so Mitchell decides to go ahead with the mission: take the Prometheus and shoot down the satellite. How does Mitchell gain this kind of responsibility? I realize that the leader of SG-1 has usually been the de facto second in command of the SGC, but this is a huge decision, especially given the events that follow.
Daniel and Kane go back to the Protectorate ahead of the Prometheus, in the hopes of a peaceful resolution. They are promptly imprisoned. Kane is thought to be a spy in cahoots with Caledonia. Daniel tries to convince the military leader, Commander Pernaux, that the Ori and the Priors aren't as beneficent as they claim, but it's no use. Pernaux doesn't seem to be for or against the Ori, but he is very much against Caledonian spies.
The Prometheus arrives in orbit, but hesitates in its attack on the satellite when they can't contact Daniel. By the time they decide to attack anyway, the satellite has detected them and powered up. Their attack is repelled by a defensive shield, but the satellite's weapon cuts through the Prometheus's shields and hull like butter. Apparently the final iteration of the satellite's plans included some significant upgrades.
The Prometheus tries another attack, to no avail; they have a little bit of breathing time, since the satellite recharges very slowly. After a second attack on the Prometheus, Mitchell leads the fighters to scramble and attack, which is also futile. Colonel Pendergast, commanding the Prometheus, asks for surrender terms from the Rand Protectorate, but President Nadal is bursting with his new-found power, and does not accept a surrender. Pendergast orders the crew to beam down to Caledonia (where Mitchell takes the fighters); Pendergast is killed in the next attack by the satellite, which destroys the Prometheus. About 75 of about 115 crew members make it to Caledonia.
The Caledonian government had been following events in orbit, and quickly gather the SGC personnel. They are now stranded on Tegalus, since the Rand Protectorate has the stargate. Even so, they are still set on destroying the satellite. They devise a method of creating an electromagnetic pulse above the Protectorate's headquarters, which will disrupt its communications with the satellite; during this time it will not be able to power its defenses, so one of the F302s should be able to destroy it. The Caledonians have been given an ultimatum by the Rand Protectorate whose deadline is running out, so they don't have too much to lose.
When this attack is launched, the Protectorate can tell something is up, but they can't figure out what. President Nadal brings in Daniel and Kane; even though Daniel is heartbroken at the apparent deaths of SG-1 and the others, he still tries to convince Nadal that the Ori are false and to find a peaceful solution. When the EM pulse occurs and the Protectorate headquarters lose power, Daniel realizes it's SG-1 doing something. Partial power shows the F302 that is approaching the satellite. Daniel begins communicating with Mitchell in the F302 and Carter in Caledonia. He quickly cooks up a deal and gets Mitchell to call off the attack on the satellite. The deal is that the Protectorate will give Caledonia the stargate so that they can move off-world; in exchange, the Protectorate keeps the satellite. The logic behind this is that if the satellite is destroyed, the Protectorate will just build a new one. Both sides agree.
But, once full power is restored, President Nadal orders a satellite attack on Caledonia's capital city. Daniel and Kane protest powerfully, but are subdued. However, at this point, even Commander Pernaux can't stomach Nadal's genocidal attack. He shoots and kills the President, and is in turn shot by the guards. However, the President dies first, leaving Pernaux in command - he calls off the attack. When Pernaux dies, Kane temporarily takes charge.
All SGC personnel are able to return to Earth. They find out shortly afterward that the deal between the Rand Protectorate and Caleodonia broke down, and all-out war began. They can no longer dial Tegalus, presumably because the stargate has been buried in rubble. What a depressing ending!
This is a bad episode all around for SG-1. Do you suppose they will ever stop underestimating the Ori? When Carter looked at the unfinished satellite plans and said it wouldn't be a problem to destroy it, did anyone else get a bad feeling? I wonder how much the Ori did this intentionally. They certainly couldn't have foreseen the specific chain of events to follow, but having a policy of making their satellites seem underpowered and defenseless initially could be intentional. When the weapon did fire, it sure packed a heck of a punch! As far as we know, Asgard shields are nearly as good as they come.
The loss of the Prometheus is a huge blow to Earth's defenses and mobility. I feel like this was partly due to SG-1's hesitation in attacking when they arrived in orbit. Yes, they are worried about Daniel, but they should've decided ahead of time whether or not to continue, and then do it immediately. Instead, Pendergast had to prod Mitchell and Carter into action; the poor guy went down with his ship as repayment! (It was also a little odd to see Pendergast, apparently a full colonel, waiting on the commands of two lieutenant colonels.) The fight between the Prometheus and the satellite was chilling because of the formidable nature of the satellite: once we saw it could go right through the shields, it was just a matter of time until the Prometheus was toast.
I think that Tegalus has stolen the title of "planet most likely to destroy itself pointlessly" from Jonas Quinn's world Langara (last seen in season 7's "Fallout"). One can feel for the plight of the Rand Protectorate, suffering from famine and illness as it rebuilds from the events in "Icon", but it's hard to maintain that sympathy when their first course of action seems to be striking out at another country. The Prior again takes advantage of the situation and uses the weakened country as an Ori pawn. Clearly, the Ori hoped to gain both the Protectorate and Caledonia as new followers. Their plan was unsuccessful in that respect, however, as they ended up with no new followers.
How did this episode affect our characters? Daniel felt guilty enough after the attacks caused by SG-1's presence in "Icon", so he probably doesn't feel a whole lot better now. However, I think he did get a good look at the stubbornness of the leaders on both sides; we get the feeling that the war was nearly inevitable.
Mitchell and Carter are starting to develop an interesting dynamic. While Mitchell is nominally the leader of SG-1, he has been increasingly looking for consensus with Carter in big decisions; I noticed this mainly when they had to decide whether or not to attack the satellite when they couldn't contact Daniel. I'm not sure why he's doing this - it doesn't seem like a lack of confidence in his command abilities.
I ask again: where was General Landry? While he was gone, Mitchell lost one of his capital ships, not to mention a quarter of her crew! Mitchell also delivered the message to Pendergast's family about his death in the line of duty, normally the SGC commander's responsibility. Landry's absence is inexplicable when such a major decision was in the offing.
In the end, while the Ori do not succeed in taking over Tegalus, the SGC is really dealt the worst blow. They really need to start moving and do something effective against the Ori.